By Josh Moon
Alabama Political Reporter
A Shelby County woman accused of faking a terminal Cancer diagnosis pleaded guilty to Federal wire and bank fraud charges on Tuesday.
Jennifer Flynn Cataldo, a former teacher, admitted in US District Court in the Northern District of Alabama to faking terminal cancer in order to bilk her friends and family out of thousands. Should her plea deal be accepted by the court, 13 of 15 charges against Cataldo would be tossed.
However, the remaining charges – for wire and bank fraud – carry the stiffest penalties and would likely see Cataldo serve a Federal prison sentence of between 12 and 24 months. She has also agreed to pay back nearly $80,000 to the victims of her scheme.
Cataldo apparently ran the scam for the better part of seven years, fooling her friends and family members – including her husband and parents – into believing that she developed ever-worsening Cancer. For the past two years, Cataldo had told friends and family that she had been told there was nothing left to be done for her and that hospice care had taken over.
She had another story for her parents – a wild tale about the way she became sick to begin with. Cataldo said she had been the victim of malpractice by a Birmingham-area doctor who had used dirty instruments during a routine biopsy. From the infection, she told them, she developed sepsis in her blood and that later turned into Cancer.
Of course, that is all impossible. But Cataldo, apparently in an effort to bilk more money from her parents, told them that she had sued the doctor and won millions of dollars, but that court award had been held up by then-Attorney General Luther Strange and former Gov. Robert Bentley.
Last March, Cataldo’s father, Robert Flynn, in an effort to help his dying daughter, reached out to APR to see if we would expose the corruption that had prevented his daughter from receiving her court award.
After a few days of digging, and speaking with Cataldo’s alleged attorney, Jamie Moncus, it became apparent that Cataldo was operating a scam. APR and Moncus, worried about the safety of Cataldo and her family, reported the incident to the AG’s office and the FBI.
Cataldo was arrested in May and sources close to the investigation said she admitted her crimes almost immediately. Her parents and husband have elected not to bail her out of jail, and she has remained in Law Enforcement custody since her arrest.
Over the course of her scam, Cataldo took in more than a half-million dollars, with most of it coming from her unsuspecting parents. At one point, according to Robert and Sally Flynn, they used their retirement savings to cover all of their daughter’s bills. They also paid for trips so Cataldo could receive “experimental treatments” for her non-existent Cancer. In total, Robert Flynn said he and his wife had paid out around $475,000 – nearly all of their retirement money – to help their sick daughter.
They have chosen not to press charges.
Cataldo’s friends were not so understanding. Part of her plea deal requires repayment of $79,620 to those she scammed.